The U.S. House and Senate passed an agreement Friday evening (Dec. 18) to postpone a government shutdown for 48 Hours as Capitol Hill lawmakers prepared to settle in for a working weekend in a bid to pass a COVID-19 stimulus bill. The extension now goes to President Donald Trump for his signature.
Assuming Trump agrees, the deal will prevent the federal government from technically running out of money at midnight on Friday.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R.-Ky.) said on the Senate floor on Friday that talks on a stimulus deal continue, adding that “I am even more optimistic now than I was last night that a bipartisan, bicameral framework for a major rescue package is close at hand,” according to The Wall Street Journal.
The proposed COVID-19 relief package carries a price tag of about $900 billion. The fight over the stimulus measure, according to multiple media outlets, has focused on many of the same issues that have separated lawmakers since the first measure was hashed out in early spring.
The Hill reported that Republican Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin opposed a provision that would have provided a $1,200 check for each U.S. family, on the grounds that it would be financially irresponsible. Meanwhile, The Washington Post reported that a key issue dividing Democrats and Republicans has been whether Congress should limit the Federal Reserve’s emergency-lending powers.
The Post quoted Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Penn.) as expressing some conservatives’ fears that the Fed is becoming a lender of “first resort” rather than “last resort,” essentially competing with banks. But the paper said some Democrats counter that Republicans are only acting now to limit the Fed because doing so could destabilize the U.S. economy at the time when President-elect Joe Biden’s administration it about to inherit it.
(This article has been updated with new details.)